Beginner Pool and Snooker Lessons Part 1
This beginner pool lesson covers the most important fundamentals for a novice player to master before moving on to more advanced techniques.
I was lucky enough to spend my university years working in a pool hall. As such, it was my duty to settle rule disputes for new players, and give many players their first ever pool lesson. I’ve shown enough novices the basics to notice that there are some easy to learn fundamentals that will allow a beginner to quickly beat other casual players and be on the road to becoming a serious player. Those I taught that learned even just a proper bridge and how to keep a level cue almost immediately moved past their friends.
So what I want to give you is what I have found to be the best bang for your buck fundamentals in the order a beginner should learn them. These are the basics that can be quickly incorporated into your game while providing the greatest immediate benefit. They are all about maximizing your chances of making any given shot, keeping you at the table and your opponent in their chair. If you are looking to join your first league, get serious about the game, or just beat your friends in the bar, these 5 things are the most vital to being successful in snooker, pool or any cue sport. Master these and you will virtually always beat those who haven’t.
Check out our drills to hone these fundamentals and improve all aspects of your game.
#1 Use the Pro Bridge
The easiest way to tell if someone knows what they’re doing or not at a table is to look at their bridge hand. Good players all do pretty much the same thing. This is because it works and is absolutely vital to making the balls go where you want. Luckily, it is actually quite easy to learn, just follow these steps.
Assuming you are right handed, lay your left hand flat on the table. I’m a lefty so this is my right hand.
Next, spread your fingers, not quite as wide as possible, but fairly spread out.
Now, raise your knuckles off the ground. Your fingertips and heel of your hand should stay firmly planted on the table.
Finally, the thumb. Place the joint of your thumb against the side of the knuckle of your index finger. Flex your thumb back so it is pointing upwards. This creates a groove where your cue will slide, so squeeze your thumb tightly enough against your hand so that it cannot move.
There you have it, the bridge that has won every snooker world championship ever played and will help you win more games. The key points are: keep your thumb tight, don’t let it move, and keep the heel of your hand on the table.
You may have seen a bridge like this,
it works and has some benefits down the line, but it’s harder and not necessary right now. The basic, easy, open bridge will serve you right up to the highest levels of play. Master it and you will instantly have an immense advantage over anyone using an improper bridge.
#2 Keep a Level Cue
Have you ever lined up for a straightforward shot, and after you hit it the cue ball seems to swerve all over the table before missing where you were aiming entirely? The culprit here is almost certainly a “jacked up” cue. You should always try to keep the cue as close to perfectly level with the ground as possible.
Basically, an elevated cue exaggerates the effects of sidespin, causing the cue ball to veer off course. In contrast, a level cue will make the cue ball go where you aim it. Any elevation will cause the ball to swerve and you to likely miss the shot. Perfectly level isn’t possible but always try to be as level as possible. I’ve seen reasonably talented bar players that would instantly play several balls better if they simply followed this rule. Also important to note, raising the back of the cue will not help you draw the cue ball backwards. There are very limited circumstances where your cue should be anything but level.
#3 Use the Ideal Backhand Position
So we’ve got our front hand figured out, cue nice and level, what about the back hand? The ideal position, and one that very few beginners naturally use, is to have your backhand form a 90 degree angle with your cue.
What this means is, as you are down on the shot and the tip of your cue is almost touching the cue ball, your backhand should be pointing more or less straight at the ground.
This position makes it so that when you actually strike the white, your arm is in the optimal position for generating force and hitting the target accurately. Of all basic fundamentals, this one might be the hardest to get used to, but the benefit is massive. For most people, it does not feel natural right away and there is a tendency to choke up on the cue, or hold the very end of the butt. But once you get used to this position you’ll find that swinging through the cue ball feels much more natural and you will be far more accurate.
#4 Hit the Center of the Cue Ball
Our first three tips basically cover the most important aspects of positioning your body. Where your two hands go, and how the cue is positioned. Now for actually striking the cue ball. If you want to maximize your chance of making any given shot, the best thing you can do is to try to hit slightly above the center of the cue ball.
You might know that hitting the bottom can create backspin, pulling the cueball back, or that hitting the sides can change the angle of the ball off the rail. But as beginner, these are to be avoided, especially in game situations. Deviating from a center ball hit, especially to the side, adds variables that create unnecessary difficulty in the shot. At higher levels, off-center hits are vital to running out, but if you want to make more balls right now, stick to the middle. Hitting just above the center lets the natural roll of the ball keep it rolling straight and allows for a more level cue.
#5 Shoot “Pocket Speed”
Easily the number one mistake beginner and even fairly high-level intermediate players make is just shooting too hard. Just like throwing a ball, the harder you try to shoot, the harder it is to make the ball go exactly where you want it to go. Try lobbing a piece of paper into a garbage can and then throwing it as hard as you can. Which one went in?
If you watch really high-level players, you’ll find that they all have the ability to hit very hard, but rarely do. If you want to make more shots and win more games, shoot softly, hit the center of the cue ball, and the balls will go where you want them to.
Not only will your shots be more accurate, soft shooting greatly increases your margin for error on many shots. What this means is, a shot that rattled and flew out of the pocket at high speeds, likely would have dropped if hit just hard enough to go in. We call this “pocket speed” or the minimum speed required to make the shot. Shooting this way means more of your balls go in and even if you miss, your balls will cover the pocket, meaning your opponent can’t make theirs! Of course, sometimes hitting harder is needed to play position on your next shot, but the general rule of always hitting as soft as the shot allows still applies.
There you have it, 5 key fundamentals that you can bring to the table the next time you play to shoot better. Use the pro bridge, keep a level cue with your back arm pointing at the ground, and softly hit the center of the cue ball. Mastering these techniques will make you a formidable player in any bar and give you the foundation to move on to more advanced techniques. Stroke Drills are a great way to solidify these fundamentals and make your game more consistent.
As you develop as a player you will discover all sorts of situations where you must break these rules. So, subscribe at the bottom of this page for updates in this beginner series where we cover foot position, grip, and more. Thanks for reading and play well.